tv Dateline NBC NBC April 1, 2017 3:00am-5:01am PDT
paige, this is carol. i just saw something on tv about you being gone since thursday night. i hope you're all right. oh my god. oh my god. >> paige, if you get this, please, please call somebody. everybody's worried about you. you know, whistle while you work. >> reporter: but her life was no fairy-tale. >> she said she knew something bad was gonna happen. couple days later, she was missing. >> reporter: where was she? tonight, the stunning end to this story, of a supermom with a secret. >> we found out that she had this second life. >> quite obviously it's
dangerous! >> reporter: paige had been playing a risky game. >> that opened up the door to a multitude of people we needed to start looking at. >> reporter: like this real estate investor. >> reporter: he was a scam artist? >> correct. >> reporter: and this drifter. >> he was a liar. he was manipulative. >> reporter: two possible suspects would become four, then eight! including a firefighter with a fixation. >> he had a list of names. their bra size and whether or not they would have sex. >> reporter: did one of them have a motive, to hurt a loving mom? >> we weren't gonna stop until we found the truth. >> reporter: what happened to paige? i'm lester holt and this is "dateline." here's keith morrison with double lives. >> reporter: its been nine years since she vanished. but few people in grand junction, colorado have forgotten paige birgfeld how could they?
the story of this young mother's disappearance has long since woven itself into local lore. >> she's a great mother, a great friend. >> reporter: it's a mystery we've been following since it began. and now, as thunderheads darken the high-desert sky, finally a trial. >> what he told me is that he knew how to get rid of a body so that nobody could find it. >> he said, "i'm going to kill you" and then he just slapped me repeatedly. >> reporter: finally rumors and gossip would be dispelled or made fact. and the secrets known not only by the guilty but also the shamed would finally be revealed. why so many secrets, whispers, rumors? because in this town, where everybody knows everybody else's business, there were enough potential suspects to fill a mini-van. >> did you have anything to do with the disappearance of paige birgfeld? >> no. >> i was put under psychiatric care for the first 48 hours and
then sent to jail. >> i did not kill paige. i mean, that's the bottom line. >> reporter: it was late june, 2007, when news of paige birgfeld's disappearance first spread like the morning sun. over the mountains, in denver, four hours away, frank birgfeld was driving to his office. the phone rang. >> voice on the phone says, "this is somebody with the mesa county sheriff's office." and he said, "are you paige's dad?" and i said, "yep." and he said, "did you know she's missing?" >> reporter: barbara campbell got the call from her husband, hans, who told her -- >> paige is missing. i was -- "what do you mean she's missing?" >> reporter: andrea land got the news in an e-mail. >> it said paige is missing in the subject line. i knew something horrible had to have happened because it didn't make any sense that she would be missing. >> reporter: no way for even a best friend to prepare for such a thing. >> stunningly beautiful. one of those women that was
almost a little bit intimidating at first if you were -- you know, you're a more average mom. >> reporter: andrea land and the other young mothers of grand junction could have been forgiven for feeling a little envy. she had the look, the money, the big house on the hill, and three attractive kids. but no, it wasn't like that at all. >> the way she talked, the way she acted, the way she treated you, everything about her was just so wonderful. ♪ taking care of kids now >> reporter: barbara campbell, andrea, and paige were members of grand junction's "mom's club international." a kind of social and support group for young, stay-at-home mothers. >> woo! there's paige, everybody! >> reporter: once a year they'd throw a "spring fling," a sort of put-on prom for mom's. fancy clothes, red carpet entry, even a pretend reporter throwing fashion questions. >> tell us who you're wearing.
>> reporter: paige was always the star, of course and this year the party was held at her place, which made it a very special event. >> most of us did not live in a home that large. she was just so down-to-earth and humble about it that once you got over the artwork on the walls and how, you know, beautiful home it was, you almost forgot that you were in this really very high-end home. >> so the winner is, drumroll please, paige birgfeld! >> she was so comfortable hosting people that made it -- it made anybody there feel comfortable. sometimes you meet someone and you just instantly have a good feeling about them. you're gonna be friends with them. it's just gonna be an instant match. that's what i had with paige. >> reporter: and then that call. the sheriff's deputy told the birgfelds that after meeting a
friend on the afternoon of thursday, june 28, 2007 paige simply didn't come home. as they drove from denver to grand junction, paige's parents tried to understand what was happening. >> as we started out, i -- i don't know that i was very tense or i thought of the worse. i guess, "gee, i wonder where she is. g -- i hope she's --" but as -- as the drive went on, it became more and more anxious, more and more tight, more and more -- >> and i would be calling the kids on the home phone just saying, "w -- we're gonna be there, you know," and t -- tryin' to sound reassuring. >> reporter: the kids had just a nanny with them because paige had parted ways with her husband, rob dixon, who'd since moved out of state. still as a single-mom, with three little kids, paige had her life well in control. due in no small part to her obsessive organizational skills. she ran several small businesses and kept track of every soccer practice and dentist appointment
in an old-fashioned, hand-written, day-planner. >> i mean, every page was full and crossed referenced and -- >> and she was always with it. and she'd come over to visit it came in the door right there in front of her. she was always checkin' it, and phonin'. >> reporter: over-booked, divorced, three kids. first question, was there a chance paige birgfeld simply walked out on her life? >> we talked about, "boy, sometimes i just wanna run away." and she said, "you know, i never feel that way. i never wanna run away. even if i did run -- want to run away just to get away from here, i would wanna take my kids with me. >> there was no way she would leave without her children. they were her life. >> if she needed to hide she would've found a way to do it with them. >> reporter: so what, then? what happened to paige?
her friends, her parents didn't know what to do or where to look. maybe a clue could be found tucked away in her day planner. except it too, was missing. when we come back, one encounter grabs their attention. >> we found out she was visiting her ex-husband. obviously, he was a person of interest. caesar on a caesar salad? surprising. excuse me, pardon me. what's not surprising? how much money matt saved by switching to geico. could i get my parking validated?
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>> reporter: it was a thursday, june 28th, when paige birgfeld, of grand junction, colorado, quite suddenly went off the radar. which was, at least a place to so mesa county sheriff's investigators henry soffel and wayne weyler set out to trace her steps that day. >> we found out that she had been at eagle visiting her -- ex-husband and they had been reconciling at that point. >> reporter: but he, having been the last person known to have seen her, i suppose would be a person of interest in your -- >> yes, obviously -- he was a person of interest. >> reporter: this person of interest, rob beigler, was paige's first ex-husband. they married right out of high school. young, immature, and soon, divorced. but, funny how this works. ten years had sanded off their sharp edged disputes, and they saw anew why they fell in love. >> it seemed like as if no time had passed at all. >> reporter: this is ron beigler, talking to a "dateline" producer soon after
paige's disappearance. >> at what point did you start to rekindle your relationship? >> about six months ago. we tried to take it slow, but there was -- there was no denyin' that -- that it was just as it was before. >> reporter: problem was biegler lived in denver, a 4-hour drive east. so the two lovers would often meet at some midway point. on the day of paige's disappearance they chose eagle, colorado. >> we were going to have a picnic and hang out together, all day. we went to subway and brought it back to where we were sitting outside down by the river. it was very familiar. and, you know, i brought some pictures, you know? and we just sat there and relaxed and enjoyed the day and the weather. i mean, it was special wonderful day. >> reporter: and then, around 7pm, they kissed and said goodbye and drove back to their respective sides of the state. two-hours later, at 8:57pm, paige called biegler. >> to see if i made it back into denver. and then we had a brief conversation. >> reporter: paige told biegler
she wasn't home yet. she was stuck behind a bad traffic accident in grand junction. and indeed, investigators confirmed there was a fatal traffic accident right here at this intersection. somebody saw paige's car here, too, that very evening. thing is, this is five miles past her house. why was she here? an hour later, 9:56pm, paige's 8-year-old daughter, jess, left this anxious voice mail message on her mother's cell phone. >> hi mom, it's me, i was just wondering when you would get home. love you, bye. >> reporter: no response. her daughter waited, worried, and called again. >> hi mom, i was just wondering when you were gonna get home. bye. >> reporter: they slept then. best they could. all three children. and awoke the next day, friday, june 29th, to a whole new kind of anxiety. she still wasn't home.
>> hi mom, you said you would be back last night and you're not even back today. bye. >> reporter: something in the pit of the stomach. paige's old, and new love, ron beigler, seemed to feel it, too. >> hi, where are you? call me if you get a chance. i'm getting worried about you. >> reporter: and, hour by hour, they piled up. phone messages. like a normal day. >> hi paige, laura just wanted me to give you a call and let you know -- >> hi, this is sears repair service for the fan, calling to let you know -- >> hi paige, it's kevin from performance pool. curious if your pool cleared up. please give me a call. thank you. >> reporter: not a single call was returned. and, that night, again, the children, with their nanny, waited in vain for their mother. the following day, saturday, june 30th. ron beigler called the house and spoke to paige's 8-year old daughter, jess. >> she didn't sound particularly that distraught. i don't think she had -- idea what was going on.
of course she didn't. >> reporter: beigler's next call was to 911. >> dispatch, this is clint. >> yes. i needed to talk about -- a missing person emergency. >> okay. and who is missing? >> her name is paige dixon. >> how -- how old is paige? >> she's -- 33. >> okay. >> she hasn't been home all -- all night thursday night, all day yesterday, and today. something is definitely, definitely wrong. she either got abducted, or in an accident. >> reporter: and that's when word of paige's disappearance began to spread across colorado. investigators didn't have a clue what happened to paige. but they wondered if beigler did. >> have police questioned you? >> yes, they have. >> and have they released you as a, you know, a potential suspect or -- >> i don't know what they -- what they've done on that. i know that i -- that was never a concern or worry of mine -- havin' it get pinned on me, you know? >> reporter: you have an alibi
for that night? >> just -- i'm confident that the police know that i had nothin' to do with it. >> reporter: do you feel like you have any thoughts as to what may have happened or what's happening? >> i think it was a major premeditated abduction or a completely random incident. i think that it's more likely that it's a premeditated abduction. >> reporter: but sometimes those not asking questions, find answers. it was the third day. sunday, july 1st, 2007. 9:58 pm. a woman driving home from work, slammed on her brakes, called 9-1-1. >> 911, this is dusty, where's your emergency? >> hi. i'm at the corner of 23 and logos. and there is a car on fire in the parking lot -- at the building right here. >> there is a car on fire? >> yeah. >> do you see flames or smoke? >> yeah. there's -- there's a lot of flames. coming up, paige's car. what will it reveal? >> more intense on the drivers side.
>> then, something else belonging to paige. >> it was an awful feeling of dread thinking how did this get here? what does it mean? >> when "dateline" continues. hey allergy muddlers are you one sneeze away from being voted out of the carpool? try zyrtec® it's starts working hard at hour one and works twice as hard when you take it again the next day. stick with zyrtec® and muddle no more®. at the home depot friday that means more color, more power, more time outdoors for a lot less.
over there, and could do nothing except watch from a distance as investigators crawled over his daughter's car. and that morning, frank gave the first of what would be many, many interviews. >> we were hopeful when we found the car things would fall into place and maybe they will. >> reporter: this interview, though, was one frank just couldn't get through. >> you know it occurred to me that i haven't cried in a long time. i've learned how to do that. that's it. >> reporter: firefighter robert thomason helped with the arson investigation. >> you can see that the glass itself was all burned out and you can see where it's still kind of intact over here. it was really obvious to see that more intense was on the driver's side. >> reporter: meaning that's where the fire started. that's where the arsonist wanted to be sure to erase evidence. under the car, damaged skid plates and strands of wild grass caught in the suspension,
meaning somebody had driven off road very recently. and after? dumped and torched the car in an industrial area just a quarter mile from where paige made her last phone call. >> it was way beyond her house, right? >> correct. >> didn't fit for the car to be there. >> reporter: news of the car fire was a turning point. no longer did the public suspect this was a case of an overwhelmed, run-away mom. the response was an outpouring of volunteers, a spontaneous community project to find paige. >> just seeing the dad on tv and everything like that, i have some children of my own and i know what i'd be feeling like if one of my children was gone and i just wanted to try to help if i could. >> reporter: paige's dad was there everyday, greeting a small army of volunteers. >> thanks for helping us. >> you know it's just really tough you know for people to give of themselves to that degree. i just -- [ sighs ] >> one of our moms was gone. and her kids needed her, and we
needed our friend. and our kids needed to know -- [ crying ] that if someone's mom is missing, that people are gonna work hard to find her. >> reporter: paige's brother and his wife came from seattle to help. >> the thing is i know that somebody out there knows where she is, and you know we're looking for clues to find that person, but there's somebody maybe who's watching this who knows where she is. >> reporter: but, this seemed odd, not helping to find paige, was her ex-husband and current boyfriend, ron beigler. >> do you feel like you wish you could go there and help search for her? >> a part of me does definitely. >> what's keeping you away from there? >> i don't know if i can handle being -- being right in the situation. >> reporter: then, knowing we were preparing a report about the case, beigler made a strange
request. >> try to keep me out as much as possible? like, just a few words here and there, but i don't want to -- >> you just don't want to talk about how you love her, like, be on talking about things. >> reporter: but, hundreds of people, many who'd never once met paige, searched on horseback, on atv's on foot. they peered under bushes, they walked miles of desert brush in hundred degree heat, and nothing. truth be told. paige could have been anywhere. and then, four days after paige's disappearance, a driver stopped along a lonely stretch of highway 50. and as he stepped out of his truck, a piece of litter caught his eye, a blank check trapped in the roadside weeds. the name on it? paige dixon, paige's married name. so then, the flock of searchers descended on that road. >> making my way back west along the median, i saw a checkbook. >> it was an awful feeling of dread, thinking, "how did this get here?
why is it here? what does it mean?" >> reporter: then more, paige's wallet, charm bracelet, this shoe, various cards, bank registers, and dozens of checks from both paige's personal and professional accounts, nearly a hundred items spread along 13 miles of road, which left investigators with two very different theories. either paige's abductor was trying to throw them off track or -- >> she was in the trunk of a car or something of the sort and dumped these items out to leave a trail. >> reporter: and while volunteers gathered the sad detritus of paige's life, a new wrinkle. >> paige's most recent ex-husband, rob dixon, came back to town to look after the kids and help out with the search. and his re-appearance stopped volunteers in their tracks. because of the stories paige told while they were married, many thought him the most obvious suspect. >> she was afraid of him.
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>> in his garage i saw three range rovers, a jaguar, two porsches, and then later he had a lemon yellow ferrari. if you've been to grand junction and you want to fit in, a lemon yellow ferrari is not exactly what you do. >> did he make any effort to meet you or the other guys? >> the mom's club would get together, they would have occasions when all the families would get together but he would never come to any of them. i never once saw him attend. >> i was so baffled how someone as upbeat and eternally happy as paige could have this grump around. >> reporter: but in hopes of promoting either good will, or himself, dixon joined the grand junction fire district board. and then donated a brand new fire truck. his generosity made news and locals wondering if they'd misjudged him. but, soon it turned to dust. dixon got himself in charge of
fire district investments, put public money in what he said was a sure thing. it wasn't. the money vanished. >> blew -- i -- as i recall about $750,000 in bad investments for the fire district. >> reporter: peter hautzinger was, at that time, the mesa county d.a. >> i made the decision to take that case to the grand jury and ultimately, the grand jury decided felony's stupid, but not worthy of criminal charges. >> reporter: then one day a repo man showed up for that shiny new fire truck dixon had donated. >> it turned out the fire truck was leased and they came and took it away from the fire department. >> reporter: that's when frank and paige and the whole town found out dixon's money was gone, too. >> he gave it to someone who pyramid schemed it. >> reporter: the missing money,
the repoed truck, the grand jury investigation, it all kept dixon on the front pages of the local paper for months. a series of public humiliations ending with an exclamation point when he was embarrassingly picked newsmaker of the year. >> it was clear rob, he was a big deal 'cause he had a lot of money. and then to lose it and be disgraced in a relatively small community -- >> they're writing about him in the local paper. >> and i said, "he has taken a gigantic fall and he will change dramatically for the worst." and i think that was very predictable and i think for rob that's what happened. >> at the end it was almost always bad rob that we were dealing with. >> she told friends and we saw an e-mail, she was afraid he'd kill her. >> he said he would kill her several times. >> reporter: in 2004, paige, in the midst of this downward spiral, called 9-1-1. >> 911. where is your emergency? >> my husband and i were in a fight -- he was supposed to watch my
children while i went to work and he said that i would come home and find them all murdered. >> reporter: police were dispatched but there was no arrest -- according to paige's parents the fighting only got worse. >> it was, you know, very ugly, the psychological, emotionally abuse that she endured all the time. and when i was there visiting, i saw an awful lot of it. >> reporter: after a 2nd incident, dixon was arrested on suspicion of third-degree assault. >> we had misdemeanor domestic violence case against him with paige as the victim. >> reporter: dixon pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of harassment and got a deferred sentence. the entire case, though, was later thrown out. anyway, paige filed for divorce and dixon for bankruptcy. and moved away to philadelphia to work as an emt again. and paige did what she could to keep the kids in the only home they'd ever known, that big
place with the mortgage to match, close to six grand a month. >> she would just sit and ponder how can a single mom with three kids make enough money to stay in the house that her husband used to support? >> reporter: she had no lack of ideas or ambition. she sold cooking products for a company called the pampered chef and slings for carrying babies. she taught dancing classes for little kids, anything to turn a buck. keeping track of it all in that big day planner of hers, the one that was almost an hour to hour record of her life. and even though he was now far away, she also kept an eye out for dixon. >> flat out she was afraid of him. she was afriday of him coming back to town. she was always nervous he was gonna be coming back into town. >> reporter: and sure enough, two years later, in june 2007, the week before she vanished, paige got a call from dixon.
said he missed the kids. said he was moving back to colorado. >> she said that she knew that rob was coming back. and that he was going to do something. and i was floored. i thought -- >> do something? >> what does do something mean? and she just said she knew something bad was gonna happen. but murder did not enter my mind. kidnapping did not enter my mind. >> that must have been very strange to hear that. >> it -- it was a staggering conversation. i mean, we were just two moms with small children faced with an unknown situation and a couple days later she was missing. coming up, inside the wreckage of paige's burned out car, her day planner. >> still had the pages intact.
>> inside the planner, a shock for everyone in the case. >> it was stunning. >> quite obviously, it's dangerous. >> when "dateline" continues. wanna get away? now you can with southwest fares as low as 59 dollars one-way. yes to low fares with nothing to hide. that's transfarency. just head & shoulders? (gasp) i thought it was just for, like, dandruff new head & shoulders. cleans, protects and moisturizes to... ...get up to 100% flake-free and unbelievably beautiful hair it's not head & shoulders, it's the new head & shoulders only abreva can heal it in as few as two and a half days when used at the first sign. it penetrates deep and starts to work immediately to block the virus and protect healthy cells.. don't tough it out, knock it out, fast.
>> reporter: it was a dismal clue, the trail of bits and pieces of paige birgfeld's life found scattered by the highway, but still no paige, alive or and now detectives had two ex-husbands to investigate. ron beigler, the last person known to have seen her alive and rob dixon, the man she told friends she lived in fear of. >> most people that she knew, friends, believed that rob dixon had something to do with this. >> so he pops right up to the top of your list?
>> absolutely. he and rob beigler, both. >> reporter: as for hard evidence, there was very little. except for the investigators little secret, the one bit of evidence they'd been hiding from everyone, even the birgfeld's something that by pure luck survived that car fire, paige's day planner. >> the melted dash had fallen down onto the floor covering up the day planner and so it was protected from the heat as well as from the fire because it had an upper layer on it. >> what sort of condition was it in? >> it was in -- i mean, it was smoke damaged and it had heat damage, but it still had the pages intact. >> reporter: the day planner, as you can see, still very readable, was full of appointments, and plans and contact numbers. most mundane routine. but -- and this was strange. three key pages, june 26th through the 29th, the dates surrounding paige's
disappearance had been ripped out. and there was something else, one particular business card that just didn't belong. for a company called "ladies en confidante.." an enterprise that oddly shared the same phone number with the business called models inc, whose cards were found scattered along highway 50 among paige's personal effects. which, appeared to support a strange story told by ex-husband ron beigler. that paige had "clients" she would see. >> it was, you know, lonely older married men buying companionship from a really intelligent woman that they wanted to spend time with. >> reporter: as hard as paige tried, what with the dancing classes, the babyslings, the cooking products -- she simply couldn't keep up with the bills. and so paige -- investigators learned -- had taken on one more job. she started moonlighting as an escort.
>> finding out that paige was running a rather high class, high quality sort of -- prostitution business was kind of stunning. i had no idea that that took place in my jurisdiction. >> living in a very nice house and nice part of town and -- >> and known to a number of people that -- that i knew. i mean, she was a soccer mom. one of my best friends' daughter i believe played on the same soccer team as paige's -- >> sure. >> kids. >> reporter: so how did paige manage to keep her escort service a secret from everybody but clients for so long? well, she went by the name "carrie" selling her services through a front company she ran called models inc. a name that implied, intentionally, that several women worked with her, when it fact it was just her. some friends suspected, most didn't. >> it was very hard for me to believe. that she would want to have sex with men for money. >> reporter: but she did, according to this investigative
report paige would charge up to $1,000 a session. you can imagine how these revelations hit paige's mom and dad. they just couldn't believe it. >> if i had known about it, i -- i definitely would've tried to use whatever persuasion i had to turn her away from it. i mean, if nothin' else, quite obviously it's dangerous. >> reporter: so, it was a shock, obviously, but they said they could understand her motives, after all, rob dixon's money had run out. >> she was doing what she had to do to keep life as normal as possible for the children. >> reporter: the news spread, of course pretty soon most people in town knew. >> there were, people who wrote to the paper and said horrible things like, "why are we spending all this time looking for a dead hooker?" >> reporter: dirt. spread, said andrea, by those who didn't even know paige. >> we knew her heart. we knew who she was every day with us and with her kids.
and if anything, it only put us into hyper vigilant defender mode and -- and made us all want to get out there and talk about what a good person she was as much as possible. >> reporter: a much bigger problem, though, was that paige's secret life made an already complicated missing person case far more difficult. >> we started looking at the phone that she was using for models inc. and you start identifying people who had the most recent contact with her. and you came across -- multiple people. >> hello, you've reached models inc, colorado's premier gentlemen's service. >> reporter: now every client who contacted paige on june 28th and there were many, was a potential suspect. here's just a sampling of her phone messages that day. >> yes, this is buddy. i was wondering if you had any girls available this afternoon. >> yeah, please give me a call back. i'm gonna go get me a motel room now. >> this is jim. just callin' to see if -- carrie was available tonight. >> hi, this is glen, i'm just wondering if anybody's still available.
>> i'm at the country inn, and i was just callin' to see if anybody's still available for the night. >> yeah, hello models inc. this is jim, i tried calling you last night. give me a call, thanks. >> my name is dave. i was calling about the ad in the newspaper. >> i wanna speak to one of your female escorts. >> what your rates are and your hours and stuff like that. >> yeah, this is john at motel 6, room 237. >> reporter: so they put together a list, called it "possible suspects." the two ex-husbands now joined by six of paige's clients. nothing to do but check out all of them. beginning with the last client paige called -- this guy, george coralluzzo. who, the day paige disappeared called her 19 times. >> we're thinking, "that's our guy." >> i couldn't get rid of him. and he's still haunting me. coming up, what this woman saw. >> it hit me. >> and what she told investigators. >> he totally did this.
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>> reporter: grand junction is a modern town in every way, but lift your eyes from the humdrum, watch a setting sun fire the great monument cliffs all around. and for a moment you're in the old west. a mystique that clings to the place, as do the drifters attracted to such things. young men who split their time
between odd jobs and the county jail. like, for example, george coralluzzo. here from new jersey and eager to hustle a buck, or a woman or whatever. >> george corraluzzo was a conman, a sick person. >> reporter: meagan williams knew coralluzo because he and her then husband had partnered in a house painting business. knowing coralluzzo as she did, she was not surprised by a visit she got on july 1st 2007. >> sheriffs came to our house. and they said, "is george corraluzzo here?" i actually thought they were there to talk about this kidnapping case. >> reporter: to meagan "this kidnapping case" meant one six months earlier in which coralluzzo, allegedly took this woman against her will on a long scary ride across state lines. >> i spilled to them everything i knew up to that point. >> reporter: thinking you were talking about a different crime altogether? >> correct. >> reporter: deputies didn't let on, but of course they were
really looking into the disappearance of paige birgfeld, three days earlier. where was coralluzzo that day? well very interesting, said meagan. he'd failed to show up for work. and later that night he offered a truly bizarre reason why. >> that his family had been in an accident. and we said, "what kind of accident?" "oh, well, my brother and my sister-in-law and my niece and nephew were beheaded on the turnpike in new jersey." >> he had to go to new jersey. he had to solidify funeral arrangements. >> he was sobbing and hands were flying and he was just like, "i don't know what i'm going to do." and just very upset. and we believed him. >> reporter: as she told the detectives, coralluzzo took the first available flight back to new jersey. and that was that. the detectives thanked her and left. didn't mention a thing about paige birgfeld. and then the very next day meagan was watching the news on tv and saw the story about the burned out car.
>> her car was found ablaze, in this parking lot, off 23 road. >> and then i saw the -- paige's face come across the news. and i looked at my ex-husband tim and i said, "that's what happened." i said, "he murdered that woman." it just -- it hit me. >> reporter: then of course she had to know, was that wild story about a decapitating accident in new jersey just coralluzzo's excuse to run from what he had done to get out of town? >> i scoured the internet and made phone calls. >> reporter: scoured the internet looking for evidence of a big traffic accident. didn't find -- >> uh-huh. nothing there. >> reporter: so who did you phone? >> i called their local gazette newspaper, talked to a reporter. nothing happened. i called the coroner. nothing. so newspaper, coroner, hospitals. nothing. >> reporter: but meagan was able to locate coralluzzo and passed that tip on to lead investigator beverly jarrell, who would end up playing a key role. you'll hear more about her later. jarrell caught up with coralluzzo in new jersey. grilled him for five hours.
but coralluzzo denied everything. more important he was in new jersey when paige's car was set ablaze so jarrell let him go. >> reporter: if he didn't burn the car, doesn't that let him out? >> no. >> reporter: why not? >> because his actions lead me to believe that he did something so disgusting and vile that he had to leave grand junction and lie about his family dying. something happened. >> reporter: and there was something else, said meagan. >> he told multiple people that he did something so terrible that he could never take it to the grave and that he would never be forgiven. what was that besides murdering somebody? >> george was a sketchy person and he totally did this. >> reporter: the coralluzzo she knew she said was cunning enough to have one of his pals help him, somebody like this guy, his best friend, jose tavera. detectives suspected that too.
so they found tavera brought him in for questioning and what do you know he'd recently injured his arm. >> i had a bandage on it and the cop asked me -- he's all, "what -- what is that, you know?" the detective goes, "what happened there?" i said, "well, i burned my --" "i burned myself at work." he's like, "well, are you good enough of a friend to burn a car down for george, you know?" coming up, a startling discovery about paige's clirnt triggers a police search. >> phone numbers, bra sizes and whether or not they would have sex. >> strange, but did it mean anything? when "dateline" continues. what nighttime pain? make all your pains a distant memory with advil the world's #1 choice
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continuing now with the dramatic developments in the case of missing mom, paige burgfel. >> i knew something horrible happened. >> a small town mom's secret life. >> finding out page was running a rather high class prostitution business was stunning. >> at least one of her patrons is under investigation. >> george was a sick person. >> now, investigators will focus on another man who admits to visiting models inc. a man with an ex-wife. an ex-wife with a story to tell. >> he said, i'm going to kill you. >> the astonishing end to a heart breaking case. here is keith morrison. >> reporter: it was a traumatic time, here in grand junction, colorado, that summer of 2007. what with the fruitless search for the missing mother of three, loved by so many, who turned out
to have secrets. and the day planner and voice mails and phone records that seemed to point eight different ways at once, two ex-husbands and six "clients." >> i don't think that i've ever seen a more difficult case in my entire career. >> reporter: one by one, the detectives cleared their suspects or tried to. ex-husband number one and current boyfriend, ron beigler. >> we were able to determine that mr. beigler had been in -- the denver area, through cell phone records. >> reporter: second husband, rob dixon, the one man she said she feared? >> we were able to corroborate with his employer that he was in the philadelphia area at the time. >> reporter: and rob dixon's cell phone connected to a tower in pennsylvania the night paige disappeared. and three days later when he left this message on paige's phone. >> paige, if you get this, please, please, call somebody. i love you. please, please, please, let us
know you're okay. >> reporter: still, there were caveats to dixon and beigler's alibis. >> that doesn't eliminate them as far as -- having some involvement and maybe paying somebody. >> reporter: then there was the list of clients -- coralluzzo at the top of it given he didn't have a solid alibi and skipped town right after her disappearance. >> coralluzzo was the one that was most concerning. >> reporter: not to mention corralluzzo's friend jose tavera the one with the big burn on his arm.. >> i said -- well, i said, "i burned myself at work." >> reporter: who swore he did not help corralluzzo by setting fire to paige's car. >> i said, "i don't care mother theresa comes and asks me to burn a car -- tell her to go to hell, you know." >> reporter: so they let him go too, for the moment. the other clients? hautzinger knew one of them very well, a prominent real estate investor named steven heald. he was almost as well known in town as rob dixon and, like dixon, for the wrong reasons.
>> the first major case i handled when i came to this jurisdiction was his multi-million dollar fraud case. i mean, i had prosecuted him and sent him to prison back in the early '90s for that. so when he came up again as a suspect in the birgfeld matter it was interesting. >> reporter: when detectives questioned him, heald admitted he embezzled money from his company to pay for dates with paige. but then, he claimed, paige turned the tables on him. >> he made allegations that she was essentially blackmailing him asking for extra money. >> reporter: what a motive. except heald's wife supplied an alibi -- they were home that night, reading, watching tv. so heald seemed to be in the clear -- which made it all the more shocking when -- after being questioned by detectives -- heald attempted suicide. that, d.a. hautzinger assumed, was not guilt but shame. >> people don't really want to have it out in public that, "oh, yeah. i was patronizing a
call-girl." >> reporter: they checked out a drifter named john livingston, who, the night paige vanished, called her again and again from a motel 6. desperate, apparently, for her attention. >> yeah, this is john at motel 6, room 237. >> reporter: except there was no evidence paige ever went to see him. but then there was this client, lester ralph jones. that's him standing in the shadow of his front door. investigators got a tip about jones from this friend of paige's named carol linderholm. paige had scheduled an appointment with jones the night before she disappeared. but for some reason didn't want to go, asked linderholm to meet jones instead. >> and he was expecting her. and then i think -- >> and then you showed up at his door. >> right. >> i'm sure -- he had some expectations, right? i mean, he called a escort service. he --. >> well, he let it be known
almost immediately that he wanted sex. >> reporter: linderholm said that didn't happen. instead they talked for an hour or so and then she left. couple of days later, she said, she called paige. >> it's carol where the heck are you? >> reporter: got no response. >> at first i thought she was just busy and she couldn't call back. >> then when i heard on the news that the kids actually went to the police department about it, that's when i knew something terrible had happened to her. >> paige, this is carol. oh, i hope you're all right. i hope this isn't rob. oh my god. >> reporter: linderholm mentioned paige's second ex-husband, rob dixon, because she knew paige was afraid of him. then, the next day linderholm heard about paige's car and the fire. >> i wanted to go over and -- and look at it -- and i arrived just in time for -- it was put on a platform on a trailer and it was being hauled away. >> and when it passed me i
just -- it just left me with this horrible feeling. >> reporter: as she drove away something across the road caught her eye. it was a sign for bob scott rv's. >> lester jones had told me that he worked for bob scott rv. and when i drove around i saw a car in the parking lot that was the same one that was in the driveway when i walked up to lester jones' house. and i thought, "oh my god." >> reporter: right away carol went to the sheriff's office, told them all she knew about lester ralph jones. how much credence did you give that story, or did you? >> we gave it a lot of credence. >> reporter: in fact, a week after paige disappeared they brought jones in for questioning >> mr. jones, i appreciate you coming down, ok? >> sure. >> reporter: jones was once chief of a rural fire department, which is where his story gets strange. >> i know rob. >> ok. >> reporter: rob dixon. paige's ex-husband. >> go down that road. what do you know?
>> i used to be with the fire department up in hotchkiss. there. >> okay, all right. >> i met him there. >> ok. >> that was a long time ago. >> reporter: and had also met dixon's then wife, paige. >> 'cause she, at one time, had come up there. >> and she had come to where? the fire department, you mean? >> yeah. >> ok. >> reporter: and was taken aback --jones claimed, when a couple of years later he went to the models inc massage parlor, and was greeted by, rob dixon's ex- wife. >> do you know if she recognized you? >> i wouldn't -- >> do you think she would? >> i wouldn't think. >> ok, so it kind of made you feel uncomfortable? >> yeah. >> but things went ok. >> yeah. >> and how often have you done business with them? >> i think twice, i think. >> reporter: while jones answered questions downtown, investigators scoured his house and bob scott rv's, where he worked. >> what did you -- what'd you find when you searched bob scott's rv location? >> a list of names of escorts
that we knew in the grand junction area, where he had their names, phone numbers, bra size and whether or not they would have sex. >> some viagras, and also some -- condoms. >> reporter: along with wigs -- a black bra -- and in a locked cabinet -- this old scale from pampered chef one of paige's many businesses. creepy. certainly suspicious but not necessarily incriminating. besides, jones had no reason to kill paige -- no motive. which led investigators to a new theory. >> i still have difficulty believing that you killed her. unless you're working for rob dixon. coming up, investigators get lester ralph jones on the phone for a very strange call. >> if you asked me where i should bury the body. >> it came out of nowhere. >> nobody asked that? >> nobody. plus, mobile hot spot gbs of
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of paige birgfeld had a big hunch. there just had to be some connection between lester ralph jones and paige's second husband, rob dixon. >> when was your last contact with rob? >> reporter: they already knew dixon had been looking for dirt about paige something he could use in family court as a way of getting custody of their kids. so, as the cops saw it, rob dixon had the motive while lester ralph jones had the means. so, maybe murder for hire? but -- big but, they couldn't find evidence of any contact between jones and dixon before paige vanished. no phone calls. no wire transfers. nothing suspicious. nothing at all, really. jones himself, on the other hand. well, there were just too many holes in his story. for starters--no alibi the night paige went missing. even worse, jones admitted that when paige's car was set on fire, he was at bob scott rv's practically across the street.
>> you're there. by your own admission you're there when the fire's -- >> i understand that. >> tell me that. explain that. >> i -- i can't explain it to you. >> reporter: and guess what they found at jones' work site? a discarded package that once contained a pre-paid, tracfone, the disposable kind that doesn't reveal the identity of the user. except, on the package was the phone's serial number. >> and from that, we were able to determine that the phone was bought at walmart on north avenue. >> reporter: so they got the security camera video. and -- well, well, well, the buyer looked a lot like lester ralph jones. why was that important? because someone using that particular tracfone called paige at models, inc. five times the night she disappeared. >> if there was one thing that rose above all else it was the video of him buying the tracfone on that was used to call her
that evening. >> reporter: except jones denied that was him in the video. >> i have you on video buying a tracfone at walmart. >> i didn't buy no tracfone at walmart. >> how do you explain the video? >> oh, i don't know. uh, i'd -- i -- there is no video. >> reporter: jones, as you can see, was unflappable, talked for five hours, and then, they had to let him go. a couple of days later, a detective called jones to say his two cars which had been impounded, were now free to pick up. and jones' wife answered the phone. >> hello? >> yes, may i speak with ralph please? >> hold on please. >> hello. >> mister jones? >> yes, sir. >> this is art smith with the sheriff's office, just calling to let you know that we have both your cars ready. both of them, obviously, are down here at the sheriff's office right now. so are you with elaine right now? >> no. >> i'm sorry? >> i don't think so. >> mr. jones, i'm not following you.
>> you asked me where i would bury a body. >> i'm sorry. >> you asked me where i should bury a body. >> which came out of nowhere, which surprised us. >> because nobody had asked him where he buried the body? >> nobody had asked him about where he buried the body. we were calling him about his vehicle. and the day before, we never talked about burying the body. >> reporter: very, very strange. and most certainly interesting when they found out why jones seemed so out of it, he'd just taken an overdose of sleeping pills, after leaving, for his wife, what appeared to be a suicide note. "my dearest love," he wrote. "i've prayed all night and this morning. i've asked for his forgiveness! i want you to know how much i love you. you're the best thing that has happened to me. please forgive me!" and then he added this, "tell the cops to get. i never did it, but i can't be railroaded." jones recovered quickly but his
actions that day remained a mystery because he wasn't talking anymore to investigators. >> the evidence was definitely pointing toward lester jones. but we still had to keep an eye open on mr. livingston, mr. heald, mr. coralluzzo. and remember that these are the ones we know about. is there somebody else out there we don't even know about yet? >> reporter: didn't help when lab results from paige's car came back negative. the fire burned it clean of evidence. so the sheriff's office turned to a volunteer search dog team for help. and sure enough, the dogs appeared to hit on jones' scent in paige's charred car. and along highway 50 where all those items were found. and then they sniffed their way down this gravel road that dead ends at the gunnison river. when given paige's scent, the dogs followed exactly the same path along highway 50 down the gravel road into the gunnison river. so was paige's body in here somewhere?
they called in divers. >> basically, we go across the river about a 100 feet. they let us out five feet. we come back across the river, 100 feet. and basically just searching by feel, i just got out of there and it's pitch black on the bottom. >> reporter: but, there just wasn't a body down there. swept away by the river, perhaps? anyway, the labor-intesive search of the countryside, which had been going on for two long months, now seemed rather pointless. so, at summer's end, the command post closed. >> i guess that's the only thing, at this point, to do because there isn't anymore volunteers that are coming up. and people do have to return to their own lives. >> reporter: but that was not an option for paige's family. her parents rented an apartment in town and carried on the search alone. >> this is my life now. i really wish i could get into a different line of work. >> reporter: even offered a $15,000 reward, no questions asked. >> it's about 100 days, and if she's out there, we need to find her. and uh, if this will help
stimulate that, so be it. >> reporter: but, no useful tips. not a one, even though frank stayed on in grand junction for a whole fruitless year. >> at some point, you have to say, "do i want to stay here doing this? or is it time to go back to denver?" >> what was it like on the way back to denver, as you realized you were leaving for good? >> i would say kind of a heaviness to it, that -- somewhere, she's back there and i'm -- i'm leaving her. >> reporter: but while no one knew where paige was. there was one woman who had an idea as to what may have happened to her. this is lisa nance, who was rather briefly married, once upon a time, to lester ralph jones. lisa will always remember him.
coming up, the ex-wife's tale. >> he looked at me and said, i'm going to kill you. >> when "dateline" continues. it helps to strengthen and re-harden the enamel. it also has stain lifting action. it's going to give their patients the protection that they need and the whiter teeth that they want. ♪ cohigher!ad! higher! parents aren't perfect, but then they make us kraft mac & cheese and everything's good again.
>> my kids really liked him. no doubt about it, thought lisa nance -- lester ralph jones was a catch, tall, strong, a firefighter, for heaven's sake. and -- >> he was a really nice person. >> really nice, huh? what do you mean by really nice? nice how? >> he just seemed really nice and genuine and sweet. >> reporter: well, you know how people are, caught up in the blinding glare of new love. and then, in a month, or two, or six, disturbing things begin to occur -- unimagined traits emerge. and sometimes a nightmarish story like the one lisa nance told us about lester ralph jones. >> i caught him, you know, watchin' me and stuff, you know? >> what do you mean? >> like, watchin' me where i was going and stuff like that.
>> reporter: he tapped her phone, she said. he hid secret recording devices. >> like, if i'd talked to any of my friends or anything like that and i didn't tell him, you know, he would already know that i had talked to whoever. >> reporter: it just wasn't working for lisa. she ended it. better sooner than later, she thought. and she moved on. but of course, it wasn't over. and one morning, as she was driving her new boyfriend to work. a car drew up beside her car, it was him, jones. >> he -- got up beside me and hit my car, which knocked me over into a ditch and then he pulled up and backed up really hard and rammed my car. and it caused the airbags and stuff to go off. >> reporter: the new boyfriend took off running. but jones had a gun. >> he shot at him twice. >> one bullet hole went through his cap. and i think the other one grazed his head. >> and you were gonna be next? >> uh-huh. i thought. i thought that. >> you must have been shaking like a leaf. >> it was scary. i asked him to put the gun down,
you know? 'cause he had it pointed right at me. and finally he put it in the backseat -- the back floorboard. and then, you know, i talked to him and tried to calm him down, you know? >> what was he saying to you? >> that i didn't love him anymore. and i didn't want him anymore. stuff like that. and i was tryin' to convince him otherwise. >> reporter: eventually he left, she called the police, he was arrested. but in no time made bail. and then, lisa was at home a few weeks later. >> i came out of my room. and i went to the kitchen. and i turned around. and he was just sitting on the couch. i mean, just sitting in the dark. >> my stomach just -- you know, just sank. i mean, i didn't -- i asked him, "what on earth are you doing here?" you know? and he didn't say anything. >> and that's when i really got scared, because he just didn't look like himself. afrt ho -- and he wouldn't say anything. >> reporter: he had something on his mind? >> i think so. we -- it seemed like it anyways. i didn't know what it was.
but he just didn't -- and i wanted to get out of the house, you know, as quick as we could. >> i just wanted to get out in public, around other people. >> reporter: she said what came into her head, lets go out to dinner, and he agreed -- got behind the wheel, and started driving but then she realized he wasn't going to dinner. he was headed out of town toward the mountains. >> i was like, "where are we going?" and he wouldn't say anything. he just kept rubbin' the back of my head, saying, "it's gonna be okay." >> rubbing the back of your head? >> uh-huh. >> what sort of tone did he have in his voice when he said that? >> he wasn't being loud. he wasn't yelling or anything like that. he was just really, really quiet. uh-huh. >> it's a little creepy. >> uh-huh. >> and looked at him and i said, "we're not gonna eat, are we?" and he looked at me. and he said, "no." and i said, "what are we gonna do?" and he was like, "i'm going to kill you." and then he just started slapping me over and over. >> the moment had come for you? >> uh-huh. that's what i thought. 'cause all i could think about was my kids, you know, not seeing 'em. >> but i was, like, tryin' to talk to him, you know? and trying to get him to talk to me, listen to me, you know? he's like, "you don't love me
anymore." you don't want me. and i was like, "no, that's not true, you know?" and he's like, "well, then prove it." i said, "how?" you know, and he wanted me to make love to him in the car. and so i tried, you know? but there wasn't no room. >> so i asked him if we could just go get a room and talk, you know? and so finally he agreed to that. >> so what happened when you got to the -- got to town? >> we went to that motel. and he pulled in there. and he looked at me. he's like, "you'll be waitin' here when i come back." and i said, "yes." so he goes in. as soon as he went in that second door and he was out of sight, i took off. >> i started drivin' back toward -- town. and i was goin' really fast, hoping that i -- >> i should think so. >> hopin' that someone would pull me over. and they did. >> and finally i told him what was happening. and -- and then they took me back to the police station. >> reporter: some officers went to the motel to arrest jones. but --. >> they said they couldn't find him. he wasn't there. >> reporter: where was he? lisa, still shaken, still terrified, went home.
and he called. >> and the first thing he said was, "where are you?" and -- i just hung up and i called 911. >> and they took me to a safe house. >> and did they catch him? >> no, they didn't know where to look. >> reporter: a few days later, somebody broke into lisa's mother's house in oklahoma. >> she called me, la -- later that day and said when she was leaving work that she noticed this car was following her and she said it was ralph. she called the sheriff's department and she's like, he's here, he's following me, and they arrested him. >> my mom said she asked him what was he doing. and he said, "looking for your daughter." >> reporter: lester ralph jones was convicted of assault and kidnapping and served three years. and now he was out and remarried and by the fall of 2007 a pile of circumstantial evidence connected him to paige
birgfeld's disappearance. >> why didn't you just go arrest him? >> our job is to gather the facts. and then present it to the district attorney's office and they make that determination. >> you wanna add 'cause -- he had to fight that battle constantly for years. >> oh, i think you hit it -- hit it right on. >> reporter: meaning they were ready to pick up jones, but d.a. hautzinger was not. why didn't you decide to pull the pin on lester ralph jones? >> i didn't have a body. >> and that was the defining --. >> absolutely. that was really --. >> i mean, there are lots of no body cases that go to trial. >> not a lot of no body cases where the victim has a double life and has been lying to her family and friends. >> because of her double life the possibility that -- defense attorney could throw out there that -- she ran off with some rich client and is living on a beach in brazil or something --. >> reporter: and as the years passed, paige's story went from the front of the paper -- to being filed away on microfiche. where was she?
coming up, they were about to fipd out, and it would transform the case. >> we need to make a critical decision. >> and then, a brand-new theory of what happened to paige. >> i think that triggers something and something went wrong. unpredictable diarrhea and abdominal pain, you may have irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea, or ibs-d. a condition that can be really frustrating. talk to your doctor about viberzi, a different way to treat ibs-d. viberzi is a prescription medication you take every day that helps proactively manage both diarrhea and abdominal pain at the same time. so you stay ahead of your symptoms. viberzi can cause new or worsening abdominal pain. do not take viberzi if you have or may have had: pancreas or severe liver problems, problems with alcohol abuse, long-lasting or severe constipation,
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♪ >> reporter: grand junction, colorado has been a boom and beautiful places that draw hikers, bikers and rafters for years. a couple trekking through the wells gulf march 6, 2012. pretty soon, paige's dad got another one of those phone calls, this time from a local reporter. he said, do you know they found paige's remains this morning? he asked if anybody had called me. i said you are the first one. >> reporter: it took time
though, to be certain it was her. >> a couple weeks or so was verified it was paige's remains. >> reporter: a few miles south of where the documents were. it had to be paige that left the trail. a call for help or arrow pointing where to find her. all that, while restrained. they found remnants of duct tape wrapped around her jaw. >> we really think the searchers were here. to miss it, you know, it's like, darn, how did that happen? >> reporter: probably, said the detectives, her killer buried her five years earlier, back in 2007 when she first disappeared. eventually, what was left of her was unearthed by run off. so, the d.a. said -- >> this is what we have been waiting for. we need to put the pedal to the
medal and make a decision. >> reporter: now, with a body, they decided to fashion a murder case against one of the eight possible suspects, rob dixon and bieglor had solid alibis. both being hundreds of miles away. so, that left the six clients. of course, lester ralph jones was at the top of the list. george coralluzzo, remember him? >> coralluzzo is the suspect that gave me, as the d.a. heart burn and concerns. that's because his alibi was so hard to pin down. he was partying at jose's apartment. but what time exactly? that depended on who you spoke to. what everybody did agree was this, coralluzzo was out of control. >> he was intoxicated, slurring his words, not being able to
focus. he wouldn't have been able to murder her and get rid of the body. he wasn't capable of it. >> reporter: of course, he might have been lying to protect his friend. detectives wanted to talk to coralluzzo himself but they couldn't find him. they asked for help. >> dune where george is? i said george is dead. >> drown the year before while swimming in a river in new jersey. still, to satisfy the d.a., investigators had to make a case that coralluzzo was guilty of innocent. because dead men don't talk, they had to go through seven years of reports, interviews and statements. it was two years after paige's body was discovered, investigators stumbled upon an overlooked piece of evidence that would change the case.
it was security camera video of coralluzzo's friend. he wasn't in the video but the time stamp backed up the story, minute by minute that he had been telling the cops, lifting his credibility and, in turn, helping to establish coralluzzo's where abouts. >> it helps kor ob rate what the witness was saying, piecing together a time line of where he was, where we could prove he was during the relevant window of opportunity -- >> right. >> that evening or next day when paige went missing. by interviewing lots of people that had been with coralluzzo or talked to him, we were able to pain stakingly alibi him. . >> reporter: they felt they had enough to take the case to a jury. in november, 2014, 7 1/2 years
after paige vanished, police arrested ralph jones for her murder. did they know the whole story now? oh, no, they certainly did not. they didn't know where or how paige was killed. >> it would have been nice to have that additional piece of evidence or additional puzzle piece to put into the jigsaw. >> reporter: help you tell the story, too. >> exactly. >> reporter: that's an important thing for a prosecutor to do. >> it's the entire thing. i don't have to prove motive, for example, but i usually try to anyway because the jury wants to know, why did this person do this. >> reporter: tell us the story, what happened in your view? >> i think lester jones was obsess obsessed with paige and she had not enjoyed her time with him and was putting him off. i think that triggered something and that's why he got the tracfone and something went wrong.
my guess is that he physically subdued her and drove her down to where her body was found but she was conscious and had the ability to throw things out the window or trunk or whatever it was leaving the trail going down to delta and she was ultimately killed not far from where her body was found. >> reporter: but the defense had its own compelling story to tell or rather stories. a separate tale for each of those alternate suspects, waste of time? well, maybe not. remember, it takes just one juror with reasonable doubt to throw a whole case into, well, you'll see. coming up, at trial, the defense goes hard at the original lead detective in the case. >> did you actually receive an official reprimand for the poor quality of work you did in this case? >> reporter: maybe the case against jones never stood a chance.
>> if you are doing shotty work in the beginning, your investigation is sick. it's impossible to make it well again. >> when "dateline" continues. it's spring black friday at the home depot that means more color, more power, more time outdoors for a lot less. come in now for spring black friday and the best prices of the season. the home depot. more saving. more doing.
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>> reporter: in a town with zero degrees of separation paige birgfelds' disappearance and murder impacted many here. if they didn't know paige personally, then they were in on the search, or were a potential witness, or knew somebody who was or, in the worse case, they knew one of the possible suspects. so when the trial finally got underway. the town's attention was very much focused on this courtroom. >> we're on the record, >> reporter: but the trouble began before a single witness could be called. ron beigler was angry, wound up. the new district attorney dan rubinstein was set to call paige's first husband. he was a key witness, but was afraid he might actually attack jones in the courtroom because beigler had actually threatened to kill him. >> and indicated that he wanted mr. jones to be found not guilty
so that he could kill him and feed him his genitals, although he used a different word than that. >> reporter: proceedings ground to a sudden halt. beigler was hauled before the judge. >> if you have any outbursts or you do anything in an attempt to harm anybody in the courtroom, that will result in serious consequences. >> i think it was over exaggerated. taken out of context. >> all right. >> sarcasm may be taken out of context. >> reporter: chastened, but still insisting it was all a misunderstanding, beigler took the stand and testified about his last day with paige. >> we talked about me moving into her house in grand junction. we talked about her quitting that business. >> which business? >> the adult entertainment business. >> did you give her reasons why you wanted her to quit? >> mm-hmm. >> what were the reasons you said? >> because she could get killed, for one. >> reporter: the jury heard about it all. the day planner, items along the roadside, the bits of paper left along the highway, the search dogs who scented on jones the tracfone jones bought then lied
about. and the apparent suicide note he'd left for his wife, and the jury heard that strange call jones had with a deputy. when jones said -- >> you asked me where i would bury a body. >> reporter: lisa nance told the jury the harrowing tale of the night jones took her into the mountains. >> and he looked at me. he said, "i'm going to kill you." >> reporter: and, there was this. >> hi mom. it's me. i was just wondering when you would get home. >> reporter: the prosecution played the fearful phone messages paige's then 8-year-old daughter jess left on her mother's cellphone. >> love you, bye. >> reporter: and here was jess today, now a senior in high school, but still able to give a child's perspective of a very loving mother. >> she was pretty much a typical soccer mom. she -- she -- we did everything with her. we all slept in the same bed with her, and -- [ sniffs ] we always went shopping together. and she took us to all of our
soccer games, and to school, and she provided us with everything that we needed, whatever that may have been. >> reporter: a procession of witnesses that lasted for weeks. and the defense team's response? that this was all so much show to distract from a shoddy investigation that focused on jones from the start, despite the lack of any physical evidence. >> do you solemnly swear -- >> reporter: and they drove that theory home by boldly calling former lead investigator, beverly jarrell. remember her? she was in charge of the investigation and all those detectives from the beginning, yet was never called to testify for the prosecution, perhaps for good reason. >> would you agree, investigator jarrell, that you made some mistakes in this investigation? >> um, yes. >> okay. has it come to your attention that you did, in fact, forget to
book in a few recordings into evidence for this? >> yes. >> reporter: jarrell admitted reports had gone unwritten and evidence was actually lost, like jose tavera's first police interview. >> and did you actually receive an official reprimand for the poor quality of work you did in this case? >> i don't remember that. >> you don't remember getting a major disciplinary action because you kept evidence from this case in your office? >> in writing? no. >> reporter: jarrell said her memory's been fuzzy since a 2010 horseriding accident, something that happened three years after the slip-ups on the birgfeld case. and then came the alternate suspects, the guy who called paige from that motel 6. >> and in that storage unit you had numerous guns, right? >> i did have, yes. >> reporter: this former client, who allegedly discussed killing paige. >> did you tell ms. waylan that you had killed ms. birgfeld by putting ms. birgfeld through a woodchipper? [ laughs ] >> no, ma'am.
somebody had said something about, did you do this to paige? did you murder paige?" and i said, just out of context, "had i -- had i -- they wouldn't find her because i would have used a woodchipper." and it was totally out of context. >> reporter: the client who admitted embezzling his company's money to pay paige. >> did you kill ms. birgfeld? >> no. >> are you responsible for her disappearance. >> absolutely not. >> reporter: and then the defense went after jose tavera, who admitted he was so tight with coralluzzo he would have done just about anything for his friend. >> including burning a car to help him if he needed that done. >> i wouldn't do that. >> you wouldn't do that? >> no. >> that's the one thing you wouldn't do? >> yeah. >> reporter: meagan williams told the jury she was sure the killer was really corralluzzo. >> he was a pathological liar, and anything that came out of his mouth was a lie. and any story that he made up, was made up! >> reporter: so many suspects, said the defense, and they put on a retired detective to accuse
the police of tunnel vision. >> because if you're doing shoddy work in the beginning, and you're not paying attention to all the details and all the information, and vetting all of the leads, your investigation becomes sick, it's almost impossible to make it well again. >> reporter: as for forensic evidence, said the defense, forget about it. they called an expert to say there is no way a dog can follow a month-old scent. >> my opinion is that it's not possible. >> reporter: if true that meant there was no proof jones had ever been in paige's car or along the highway where her belongings were found. by the end of the six-week trial, the jury had heard from more than a hundred witnesses, testifying about a nine-year investigation, involving multiple suspects. so it wasn't surprising--during deliberations--the jury came back with one question after the other. the prosecutor -- >> i started to get worried and the question popped into my mind, "is it possible to ever convince 12 people beyond a reasonable doubt, unanimously as
to an answer on this case?" and i started to worry about that. >> please rise for our jury. >> reporter: by day three, the judge called the jury into his courtroom to ask -- >> is there a likelihood of progress towards a unanimous verdict? >> reporter: after getting this far, was the prosecution's case coming undone? coming up, jurors speak out saying the case went wrong from the start with the original lead detective. >> she boggled me when she was like, i don't remember, i don't know. you are a lead investigator? >> then, paige's parents emotional reaction. >> i will tell you, that was a hard part. >> that was the hardest for me. ♪ ♪
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by day three of deliberations, the jury sent word to the judge they were deadlocked. >> is there oo likelihood of progress toward a unanimous verdict? >> no. >> all right, thank you. >> reporter: the judge ordered them back to deliberate further. now there was concern. >> they won't make another effort consider their opinions further. if they are unable to make a verdict -- >> reporter: less than two hours later, another message from the jury. >> the jury remains in the same position period. we are not unanimous in our decision, period. we do not feel any further discussion will change our current state, period.
>> that was it. the judge had no option but declare a mistrial. minutes later, paige's dad, frank, tried to keep it positive. >> if we hadn't had a trial, it was a massive effort. i am grateful they gave us a shot at it. >> reporter: like many times in the past, frank cracked and the pain slipped through. >> at the end, they should have -- that all -- >> in my heart, i believe he was guilty. >> reporter: a handful of jurors spoke to us afterward to explain how the trial played out for them. this man, william sullivan voted guilty. >> because of the evidence. you know, nobody has that bad of luck in one week. >> this man was disturbed by the lead investigators testimony. >> she boggled me on the stand,
i don't remember, i don't know. whatever. and you are a lead investigator? they should have replaced her immediately. >> reporter: still, he voted guilty. there were others, three, who couldn't go with their doubts. >> not enough evidence for them to get past a reasonable doubt. >> reporter: the prosecutor said, in a way, he understood. >> the biggest weakness of the case, in my opinion was, there were no eyewitnesses that placed him with miss birgfeld that night. >> reporter: he conceded they did a good job defending jones. >> the point they were trying to make is a good one, it could be anyone. it could be anyone we never thought of. >> reporter: the seasons slipped by. with the leaves gone and snowfalling, a retrial.
>> good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. >> reporter: with time and money tight, this would be the last shot at jones. another mistrial would be just as good as an acquittal. >> do you solemnly swear -- >> reporter: it all played out before. >> you have a track record of being dishonest? >> yes. >> reporter: the same witnesses. >> did you kill her? >> no ma'am. >> reporter: the same testimony. >> i have never been able to run a dog on a trail that is a month old. >> reporter: the same suspect. >> did they conduct a good investigation? >> no. >> reporter: the same closing argument from the defense. >> this man is innocent and he stays that way unless these people can convince you otherwise, beyond a reasonable doubt. >> reporter: what is different this time is the closing argument taking the alternate suspect seriously, he went after each theory, one by one, with attitude. >> and to think that somebody
whose so drunk that three people have to cart him around, who is also on cocaine is capable of doing this, carefully and going back and cleaning us up, carefully, with a car fire that specifically targeted to get the evidence, to tear pages out of a day planner. does this sound like george at all? no. >> reporter: would that make a difference to the new jury? few thought so. while deliberations went on from one day to the next, paige's parents braced themselves. >> i think there's a reasonable chance it could be another mistrial. if it is a mistrial, i suspect jones will walk out a free man. >> reporter: just as in the first trial, the jury deliberated for three days before sending a note to the judge. >> please be seated. >> reporter: this time, there was a verdict. we the jury find the defendant lester ralph jones guilty of count one, murder in the first degree. >> when the verdict came in, i
think we were supposed to feel elated, like the home team kicked a field goal with two seconds left and we just won. to be honest, i didn't feel that. there were no winners in this case. none of this brings paige back to us. >> reporter: what about you? >> this is about paige. this is about paige who has been gone and will not be able to come back to her friends, her brother, her parents, her kids. >> reporter: who now live far away in pennsylvania, as they have since paige first vanished. the birgfeld's tried to get custody, but the court ruled in favor of the father. >> just trying to get back to our normal lives. we won't. we never will be what we were ten years ago.
it's changed each of us, but we are working it, trying to get back to normal. >> reporter: or something like it. >> a big word that always hangs over is closure. i'm not sure what that means. >> paige was kidnapped. >> reporter: there were difficult moments for them during the murder trial. the first time they heard the frightened voice mail messages of her children. >> hi, mom. you said you would be back last night and you are not back today. bye. >> that was the hard part. >> that was the hardest for me. >> there is almost a recognition that you are in trouble, please don't be in trouble. please come home to us. >> reporter: and then, there was the day planner, when the sweet, mundane details of her life were made real once more. the family night, soccer games,
the dance resitals and birthday parties and library visits, they were all there. the precious, chaotic rhythms of a family that once was. proved there was a time when all was as it should be. proof, also, that time is gone, forever. that's all for this edition of "dateline." we'll see you again next friday at 9:00, 8:00 central. of course i'll see you each night for nbc "nightly news." i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, good night.
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